A Canadian military medic who lobbied hard to be sent to Afghanistan was killed by an explosion early Sunday near the city of Kandahar.
Pte. Colin William Wilmot died after a bomb exploded while he was on overnight foot patrol with troops from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in the Panjwaii district.
Wilmot, whose age has not been released, was pronounced dead at the military hospital at Kandahar Airfield a few hours later. He grew up in a military family in Fredericton and was based in Edmonton with the Princess Patricia's.
To the skirl of bagpipes, Wilmot's fellow soldiers bid farewell to him at a solemn sunset ceremony Monday. His comrades bore his flag-draped coffin up the loading ramp of a military cargo plane that will bring him home.
The medic was remembered by comrades as the top student in his basic medical course and a young man with a perpetually sunny disposition. They said Wilmot, who had been with the military for three years, was not originally scheduled to join the current rotation in Afghanistan, but demanded to be sent.
"He quickly marched in to see his regiment sergeant major to indicate he was eager to serve," said Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan.
"Colin wanted it known that should a spot become available on the mission, he wanted in.
"He was selected to fill a vacancy soon after, because he was motivated, he was skilled, and because he was eager to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Afghans."
'We are a family,' commanding officer says
Back at Edmonton Garrison, where Wilmot was based before deploying for Afghanistan, his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Linford, said the incident underlined the risks faced by Canada's combat medics in Afghanistan.
"We are a family and this is like losing a family member," he said.
"I don't think there's any doubt that all medics that go over to do this job are extremely aware of the dangers they face," said Linford, commander of 1Field Ambulance in Edmonton. "Frankly, I'm extremely impressed by their level of courage and commitment to do that," said Linford, commander of 1Field Ambulance in Edmonton."
Wilmot leaves behind a fiancée, Laura.
He is the 87th Canadian soldier killed during the Afghanistan mission, and the first killed in combat since the beginning of June.
In early June, one soldier died after falling into a well during a nighttime patrol.
Increase in combat deaths understandable
Several days ago, another soldier, Cpl. Brendan Anthony Downey, was found dead in the living quarters of the secretive desert base, Camp Mirage, that offers logistical support to the military operation. Officials released few details but said the death was non-combat-related.
The past few weeks have been deadly for other coalition troops in Afghanistan, with the U.S. forces dealing with more casualties in June than any other month since fighting began. Britain also suffered one of its worst months.
"This is the summer campaign season. There's been a predictable rise in the number of …combat-type incidents," said Thompson.
"While I acknowledge the casualties that the British and the Americans have — and we certainly grieve with them — there has been just as much risk taken by Canadian soldiers here in Kandahar province," he said. "We've just been, frankly, luckier."
Last month, hundreds of insurgents escaped into the streets of Kandahar after an attack on the city's main jail, and there are suspicions fresh weaponry is making its way to insurgent hands from Pakistan and Iran.